Surveying the city of Albany's new website

new albany city website

A screengrab from the new site.

The city of Albany launched a new website today. The new design is cleaner and easier to navigate. And the city is also now making use of the SeeClickFix system for reporting non-emergency problems, both on its website and via a mobile app.

All those developments are encouraging, especially considering from where the city started. The old website was... uh... not good. So +1 to the city of Albany.

After taking some time to tour the new site today, here are a few thoughts about what's good -- and what could be better...

albany website how do I

The look and navigation

The old city website looked like something from 2003. And that wouldn't have really been issue (aside from an aesthetic one) if not for the fact that it wasn't easy to navigate, either. The new site -- developed by L&P Media in Troy -- is easier to get around. Especially good: the tabs at the top for Forms and FAQs.

Also good: the "How do I..." menu that includes links to sections with commonly requested info.

Could be better: It takes four clicks -- and some poking around -- to find the page with the agenda for the Board of Zoning Appeals.


albany seeclickfix app
Screengrabs from AlbanyWorks4U, the city's mobile SeeClickFix app.

It's very encouraging to see the city embrace the idea of systematically accepting, tracking, and addressing citizen reports/complaints/suggestions. This sort of approach is the foundation of most large customer service operations, and to some degree, that's exactly what a local government is. And using an established system like SeeClickFix -- which is already used by other governments and bunch of media outlets -- is probably a good idea, rather than trying to build something from scratch.

As it happens, accessing the system via the SeeClickFix website provides more detail, allowing for stuff like feed subscriptions. It'd be good to see that functionality directly on the city's website.

And the real test of this system is going to be how both citizens and the city use it. People will have to be willing to take the time to file issues -- and do so in helpful way. And the city will have to be diligent about not only addressing the issues, but also noting in the system what's happening -- not just "the issue has been addressed" but something like "DGS sent out a truck and cleared the debris from the storm drain. It's open now. If you could help keep leaves out the gutter, we'd appreciate it."

Also: It would be great for the city to publish quarterly reports with stats about the number of tickets opened, how many were closed, how long it took -- and ways citizens can help by filing shorter/longer/more detailed/more specific/whatever reports.

More data: Let's hope this is also the beginning of the city publishing more public data -- like, say, police incident reports -- either via its own website or the portal.


The new site just launched, so it's probably not fair to expect everything to be fully filled out. But if there's one area the site could be immediately improve, it would be some of the content.

For example: the events calendar for June was totally blank this afternoon.

Other content could just be more specific. Like for the "What goes in the recycling bin (blue bin)?" FAQ, the answer is:

The City of Albany provides resident with a blue bin for all recyclables.
The City of Albany uses the Single Stream Method of recycling. Single Stream is where all recyclables such as glass, metal & plastic containers, paper, cardboard, milk carton and juice containers all go in one bin. All of these items should be placed loosely in the bin. NO SORTING NECESSARY! It's recycling made easy.

Except... that doesn't really answer the question. Which number plastics can go in the bin? Can the milk cartons with the plastic spouts be recycled? What about bottle caps? Or pizza boxes?

And other content looks like it was just transferred from the old site without clean up, like the neighborhoods page.

The beginning

Anything new is going to have bugs or problems. On the whole, it's encouraging to see the city move in this direction. But websites are kind of like gardens -- it helps to have a plan as you plant, but it's often just as important how you continue to build, fix, add, and weed as things grow. We're looking forward to see how things develop.


So...Mayor Jennings is running for re-election!

The new site looks great.
Content needs help -- the Albany's Neighborhoods section could be so interesting! But, alas:

To be fair, it's the exact content that was on the old site, just carried over. But-- I've been involved in many website relaunches/re-writes, and improving the content to make it informative and readable (and interesting, even!) would go a long way.

Criticism aside, this is a very good step in the right direction.

Mike- is it just me, or has the Sheehan campaign had people out posting negative comments about Jennings on local blogs non-stop since the day she announced she was running?

Now if only Schenectady would overhaul theirs. Their webpage looks like it was designed when Windows 95 was all the rage. I keep half expecting to see that dancing baby gif whenever I visit.


People have been complaining about Jennings, for years. Look at the times union blog archives, Albany Observer, or Democracy in Albany blogs, to name a few...

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